Monterey Convention Center Celebrates Grand Opening.

The grand opening celebration for the much-anticipated Monterey Conference Center was celebrated on Wednesday January 31st. The $60 million renovation was the largest capital improvement project in the city’s history. Stronghold Engineering, Inc. was the prime contractor on the job, which was managed by Ausonio, Inc. with architecture, interiors, and engineering services by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP. Funding for this project was provided by Conference Center Facilities District bonds from revenue generated by Monterey hotels and motels. Stronghold was awarded the original $46.3 million construction contract to renovate the Monterey Conference Center in December 2015. Built in 1977, the aging conference center was losing its market share of conference business to Napa and Santa Barbara, affecting the economy of the community and the surrounding local business. The renovation brings the conference center up-to-date technologically and the new, glass design creates a central focal point of the city, connecting downtown with the waterfront and Fisherman’s Wharf. Located just a couple hundred steps from the waterfront of Monterey Bay makes this conference center a one-of-a-kind destination.

The largest capital improvement project in the city to date is set to make the Monterey peninsula not only a destination for medium-sized conferences, but a lure for those attendees to come back to the area for vacations. Funded mostly by the local hotels, who anticipate the renovation will return the revenue with additional conference bookings at the new state-of-the-art center. The completed redesign reused approximately 80% of the original steel and concrete and created a 20,000 sq ft exhibit hall, and a 10,000 sq ft ballroom, allowing for two large concurrent conferences with moveable walls and configurable spaces, while the modernized systems and technology and ADA-compliance make the center not only more attractive but accessible for more clientele.

 The two-level open lobby, fully enclosed with glass and the new, clerestory windows, skylights, and the glass storefront bring light and a sense of openness to the modern space, replacing the stucco and concrete façade of the original building. Renovation is expected to create more flexible and functional space and add advanced technology. It is expected to earn a platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designation. Outside, the adjacent Portola Plaza creates an extension of the center and an open pedestrian with fountain and outdoor seating. The circular drive with stone pavers, bronze truncated domes and light bollards highlight the new plaza with the a newly commissioned fountain in the center and the statue of Gaspar de Portola, founder of Monterey, relocated near the entrance of Alvarado Mall.

 Stronghold faced some challenges with the renovation, including a difficult demolition of the second floor auditorium concrete floor and risers while keeping the skeleton structure intact, the building being significantly out of square requiring a complete structural redesign of the second floor, skewed and crooked concrete girders, and other unforeseen conditions.

 “This new landmark will be a delight for locals and visitors alike, and the positive impact will last for generations,” said Mayor Clyde Roberson.

 “The team effort was just as enormous as the project itself,” said Interim City Manager, Hans Uslar. “Without the foresight and generosity of Monterey hotel and motel partners, the collaborative marketing efforts of the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the enthusiasm and patience of the business and resident communities, we would not be able to celebrate this momentous occasion.”